Car service checklist
Life on the road can be tough for our cars, so it's important to take good care of them through regular maintenance. A service allows you to check that all parts are in tip-top condition, giving you peace of mind the car you drive's legal, reliable and above all, safe.
Car servicing enables you to identity any issues early on, before they develop into bigger problems and end up costing an arm and leg. If your car's in good condition, it'll also limit your chances of breaking down.
When do services occur?
Servicing requirements vary with each car make and model, so you'll need to check your handbook. In it, you should find recommendations on how often to book in for a service and carry out certain maintenance tasks. The manufacturer might also advise on when certain replaceable parts in the car may need to be changed.
Generally speaking, cars tend to need servicing around the 12,000 mile mark or once a year — whichever comes first.
Noticed a new light on your dashboard? Before doing anything else, check the user's manual to see what the light means; while some issues are minor and can be left, others require immediate attention. By ignoring it, you could be risking your safety and damage to your car. Make sure you know how serious the problem is, and book in with a garage if necessary.
Simple car maintenance checks
While it's safer to leave certain work to the experts, there are a number of maintenance checks you can easily carry out at home, saving yourself some money in the process.
Tyres get a lot of use and should be checked once a fortnight. First up, make sure they're the right pressure — you can find this in the car manual. Next, inspect the tyres for cuts or wear in the rubber and ensure the tread's within the legal limit, which is 1.6mm for standard cars.
Oil keeps everything running nice and smoothly. You should check levels using a dipstick every couple of weeks and before any long journeys, topping up if required. If the oil's dirty or smells of petrol it should be changed. If you have to top up regularly there could be an underlying issue with your car, so it's best to get it checked by a professional.
When your engine's cold, lift the bonnet and check to see whether your coolant reaches the maximum mark. If it needs topping up, add a mix of 50/50 water and coolant — always read the label, as some coolants come pre-mixed.
Wipers and screenwash
Check your screenwash levels once a month, as well as before any long trips. The reservoir should be clearly labelled and is usually found towards the front of the engine. If it's low, simply pop the cap and carefully pour more washer fluid in until it reaches the max line. Always choose a good quality screenwash capable of clearing windscreen grime.
Your wiper blades should be changed at least once a year, or as soon as you notice them smearing or making a squeaking sound.
Check all your lights are working, including your indicators, brake lights, fog lights and reversing lights. If your tail light needs replacing, this can be done cheaply at home on the majority of newer cars. Check your owner's manual to see what type of bulb you need and purchase it from your local auto shop. To fit it, open the boot and remove the plastic or fabric cover over the light. Carefully take out the old bulb and replace it with the new one, being sure not to get your finger prints over the glass. (Tip: make sure you check it works before putting the cover back on!).
Inspect your windscreen for any damage from road debris; even a small chip can develop into a large crack if left untreated. Also, if the chip's significantly affecting your line of vision then your car will fail its MOT.
Of course, you'll need to contact a professional to fix chips on your windscreen. To make sure you don't have to fork out for costly repairs, you might want to consider getting car windows and windscreen cover if it isn't already covered on your insurance policy.
Finding a reliable garage
Some things should be left to the professionals. For instance, checking a tyre's tread requires little skill, but you need some mechanical know-how to carry out checks on parts like the clutch, gearbox, battery, and brake pads and discs.
You want to find a garage that carries out quality work for an honest price. A good place to start's searching for garages approved by the Motor Industry Code of Practice for Service and Repair, which was launched back in 2008 in a bid to bolster customer confidence by encouraging garages to improve service standards. To find local, approved garages, simply enter your town or postcode into the Motor Codes search tool.
The cost of an average service is approximately £125¹, while the UK's average labour rate for main dealers and non-franchised combined is £74.33² — bear these figures in mind when comparing quotes.
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